Sister of President George Washington
Betty Washington (1733–1797) was the first and only daughter to live to adulthood of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington, and the younger Sister of President George Washington, who was born in 1732. Betty and George grew up at Ferry Farm, across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Virginia.
George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington from her first marriage, described Betty as…
a majestic-looking woman, and so strikingly like the brother [George Washington], that it was a matter of frolic to throw a cloak around her, and placing a military hat on her head, such was her amazing resemblance, that on her appearance, battalions would have presented arms and senates rise to do homage to the chief…
She was born Elizabeth Washington on June 20, 1733, at Little Hunting Creek (later named Mt. Vernon) in northern Virginia. In addition to George, Betty had three younger brothers: Samuel, John Augustine and Charles and two half brothers by her father’s first marriage, Lawrence and Augustine Jr.
When Betty was five years old, Augustine Washington moved his family to the 600-acre Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg, for the community life and the educational advantages it offered. This was one of several farms owned by her parents. Her mother had brought several properties to the marriage as her dowry.
Here the Washington children grew up and received their education – Betty at a “Dame School” and George under the tutelage of Parson Marye. Betty and George were especially close because of their nearness of age and their similarity in personality and character.
After her father’s death in 1743, life became difficult for Betty and the family because of their financial situation. In 1754, her brother George moved to Mount Vernon while their mother, Mary Ball Washington, stayed on at the farm until 1772, when she moved to Fredericksburg to be closer to Betty.
In 1750, at age 16, Betty married Fielding Lewis, a wealthy and prominent businessman in the nearby village of Fredericksburg. Her wealth and social status increased, and she immediately became stepmother to two young children from Fielding’s first marriage.
Fielding Lewis was born July 7, 1725, at Warner Hall in Gloucester County, Virginia, to John and Frances Fielding Lewis, the third of seven children. His uncle Robert Lewis was the grandfather of famed explorer Meriwether Lewis.
Lewis owned and leased ships that carried tobacco, produce, wood products and European-made goods to the West Indies, then returned to Virginia with fruit, sugar and salt, rum and occasionally slaves. Profits from trade were good because Fredericksburg was close to the wealth of the Virginia Piedmont.
After the wedding, Betty moved into a large brick house in Fredericksburg where she and Fielding lived together for the next 25 years. In 1751, Betty gave birth to their first child, Fielding Jr., followed by ten more children over a twenty-year period. Only six children survived to adulthood.